Jupiter, crowded with turbulent clouds and roaring with wild winds, is very popular and appreciated for its gloriously stormy atmosphere. Since NASA’s Juno space probe landed there in 2016, scientists obtained essential data that helped them understand what drives the gas massive’s crazy weather.
But Juno has offered not just answers, but also more questions. At Jupiter’s south pole, the space probe captured six storms in 2016, one in the center, and five around it.
A seventh storm occurred in 2019, and now there are six vortices in an odd hexagonal shape surrounding the central storm. The most intriguing thing is that the southern storms are all whirling clockwise. Here is what you need to know.
Jupiter’s Weather Still a Mystery
Jupiter’s order is different from the other gas giant in the Solar System. Saturn, for instance, has a single, massive storm at each of its poles. And on our planet, most cyclones form at tropical latitudes, drifting towards the poles, but dissipate over land and cold ocean areas.
Since Jupiter has neither cold oceans nor land, it makes sense that its storms would be significantly different from Earth. The question is, why don’t they merge to produce single storms as Saturn?
Astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Caltech realized numerical simulations of the storm configurations. They found a set of conditions under which the storm can stay silent and stable for a long time without merging into a mega-storm.
“[…] too little shielding and small depth lead to merging and loss of the polygonal pattern…[…] Too much shielding causes the cyclonic and anticyclonic parts of the vortices to fly apart; the stable polygons exist in between,” explained the researchers.
The team has to test their simulations on actual Juno data and find more answers to Jupiter’s extremely intriguing weather case. Juno is also expected to bring more data.
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